Udana vayu, or “ascending air,” is the prana vayu that directs prana from lower to upper chakras. Udana vayu is the channel that leads from lower to upper levels of consciousness, carrying the energy of kundalini—the dormant energy awakened through yoga practice—up through the chakras as it ascends. It is primarily located between the heart and the head.
As the expressive vayu, udana governs the throat center. Communication and expression are particularly affected by this vayu, as are the thyroid and parathyroid glands, which regulate metabolism. When udana is balanced, we feel confident, assertive, and able to express ourselves articulately. The energy of udana helps us to raise the bar, so to speak—to achieve our highest aspirations.
When udana is out of balance, we find it difficult to communicate effectively. Loss for words, or too many words, or inappropriate speech burden our conversations. We feel unable to reach our ideals and find it difficult to understand those of others. We may feel defeated and unsure of ourselves.
Udana vayu is activated by samana vayu, which itself is activated by the balance of prana and apana vayus. As such, udana is balanced when, at the culmination of an asana practice, we invert our bodies in poses such as Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose), Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand), Halasana (Plow Pose), Matsyasana (Fish Pose), and Sirsasana (Headstand).
Finishing your asana practice with inversions, even simply spending some time in Bridge Pose, will help set your mind for a comfortable Savasana (Corpse Pose) at the end of practice. And if your asana practice is followed by a seated meditation, you will find meditation to be easier after inversions due to the activation of udana vayu.
Udana vayu is the fifth of the five prana vayus, all working together to support the subtle energies that underlie the yoga practice. By understanding these five vayus better, we are able to deepen our experience of the yoga practice. It becomes obvious that yoga is far more than touching our toes and taking a deep breath. This all-encompassing practice exists on many levels, which can be revealed should you choose to explore them.